Faces of Death

August 10, 2011 at 12:22 am | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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Words of Caution: The following posting contains graphic imageries not suitable for those who are faint-hearted. Read at your own risk or come back again when we have more family-oriented or children-friendly posts…hahah... 8)

“One more!”

“Another one!”

“Oh gosh…one more! Can I go down and see?”

Itchyfingers were driving in New Zealand during our first road trip overseas and we kept passing by roadkills along the way. I was curious as to what animals they were, so I kept pestering Tisu Boy to stop the car and check them out. But he would always refused because it was dangerous to stop, unless the road was sufficiently wide enough for us to pull over. Of course there was also the morbid and gross factors involved as they were dead animals afterall.

One day,Tisu Boy finally gave in and stopped the car as it was a relatively quiet and wide stretch. At last we confirmed our guess as to who were these poor victims of the road….


A possum…It looked like it was killed not too long ago…There was barely
any blood but it could be on the other side of the body or perhaps it died
of a deadly internal injury   


Look at the prehensile tail…The Common Bushtail Possum (Trichosurus
vulpecula)
is a native from Australia but was introduced into New Zealand
in the 19th century


Like many other introduced species, these possums create a problem for the
adopted environment. They are considered a pest as they love the native Rata
tree
. We saw many shops selling products like gloves, hats, scarves etc made with

possums’ fur. They called this “eco-fur”, as the animals are a threat to native flora
and fauna. By culling/harvesting them from the wild, the authority are thus
controlling their population. The products feel reasonably soft and warm,
but I find the thought of using fur 
products repulsive if animals need to be killed
to keep us warm…It was 
especially gross whenever we thought of the numerous
possum roadkills…not 
that they used them to make into scarves lah…haha.. 

Similarly, we also saw many roadkills when driving along the Malaysian roads, especially those lined with oil palm plantations. This day, we happened to drive past one roadkill which looked quite complete…er…meaning it was not squashed beyond recognition…Again, I had to keep pestering Tisu Boy before he finally relented and stopped the car for me to take a quick look…I was not obsessed with animal carcasses lah…was just curious about the kinds of wild animal that lived out there…


Goodness.. Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) or Toddy Cat, is also
called Musang in Malay. This is the animal used on the Raffles Museum of
Biodiversity Research (RMBR) logo. It looked so bloated that we didn’t dare
to scrutinise too closely or stay too long in case it exploded due to the built-up
pressure… Palm Civets like the palm fruits and this one probably got killed while
trying to cross the road…So poor thing…have not had the fortunate to see a wild one,
especially when this uncommon animal is nocturnal

It is never a nice experience to encounter roadkills since it usually means that the wild animals are driven out of their native habitats in search of food. It is even more unpleasant and sad when the dead animal happens to be a rare species. There has been reports of roadkills like the pangolin, banded leaf monkey and even otter in Singapore! Certainly hope that these animals will find a safer haven when the bridge across BKE (Eco-link) connecting the nature reserve on both sides of the expressway is completed!

Also see related post:
> The Smell of Death
> New Lease of Life
> Alien vs Natives
> Close Encounter with an Otter 

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Wake Up Call – Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand Trip #11

May 25, 2011 at 1:23 am | Posted in itchy backside | 1 Comment
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I was in nice warm Slumberland when a high-pitch screech woke me up…I opened my eyes and got a shock when I saw something outside the window…moving…Then it let out that squeal again…It was only then I realised what was that…


Oh my goodness! I couldn’t believe my eyes! A Kea standing at the balcony 
of my room, waking me up at 4.30 am! The sky was still so dark!

Can you imagine how excited Itchyfingers was? To be woken up by a mountain parrot! :D!!! It was still so dark and yet this naughty parrot was already warming up his vocal! (Click here to listen to the kea’s call)


The naughty parrot kept walking to and fro…He had rings on his legs…
must be tagged by the national park people… 

It was tough trying to take decent photos of the bird since it was still so dark…Itchyfingers were fully awaken by now…hahah…Not too long later, we realised we weren’t the only ones “terrorised” by the Kea…There seemed to be others jumping around on the rooftop and our neighbours’ balconies as well! Could hear the other people laughing in amusement as well as flashing of cameras. Hahahah…All woken up by these “natural alarm clocks”! Hahah….


An hour or so passed while the Kea continued clowning around, the morning
sun began to extend its golden rays on the
 mountain range. From our balcony
we could see Mount Cook on the right…


Colours reaching its full intensity!


The first Kea flew off, only to be replaced by another one very soon…These
mountain parrots were so cute, totally unafraid of people. We were the ones
who were more wary of their sharp beaks and claws…hahah 


Being curious, these Kea can be destructive also! 


Our neighbours gave this Kea a apple core…probably so that it would stay
longer at their balcony for them to take photos…but this guy preferred to
come over to our side….


The tentcard in the room with advices on not feeding the Kea, apparently
ignored by our neighbours…


Luckily some still preferred to snack on natural food sources…

Strangely, the naughty parrots seemed to have enough fun disturbing people’s sleep and fooling around on the balcony shortly after the sky turned bright, and one by one, they left. It was also time for us to wash up… :p What a great start for the day! 😀

The previous day afternoon after we had checked into the hotel, we decided to explore around the area….


The Hermitage, a hotel with a long history dating back to 1884


From the hotel, there was this trail that led to the various walks… 


We decided to go for the shorter Kea Point walk due to time constraint, as
day light could end quite early here…


Very easy walking


On the way, we saw raspberry tree! So tempted to pluck and eat!


And also these miniature apple-look-alike fruits…cute…


It was very peaceful as we only met a couple of other visitors on the way..
Maybe we walked too slow so din get to catch up with them…hahah


Most of the path were well-laid…


I think we much longer time to reach here…stopped too long for photos
along the way…hahha…

I forgot to take a photo of the Kea Point viewing platform, which by the time we reached there, was occupied by a couple of other visitors.


Could see Mount Cook so much nearer here! The highest mountain in New
Zealand, reaching at height of 3,754 metres! Er, did my eyes play tricks
on me? I thought I saw a face on the mountain!? Did you see it?


There! Can you see the face? Even the old English couple Itchyfingers were
talking to agreed that it looked like a face!

As the cloud kept moving in from the right to cover the mountain, we sat there patiently hoping to see the mountain cleared up….


And it did… 🙂

We sat on the platform chatting with the couple, admiring the beauty and peacefulness of the vast mountain landscape, until another Malaysian chinese girl who backpacked with two other friends joined us. She walked here alone as her friends were tired. Interesting to meet fellow asian in foreign country!

Walking back took slightly shorter time, but we were still being caught up by other visitors…hahah…


This ang moh guy was brisk walking behind us so we thought he was 
rushing for time and made way for him to cross over first. But after he passed
me, he just decided to lie down amongst the grass to take a nap! Totally ignoring
other people! Hahahah…! Another asian couple in front of us was posing
for photo with Mount Cook as backdrop…


Another look back at Mount Cook…

Just as we hastened up our pace, we saw something small flew past…To our surprise, it was a raptor!


The New Zealand Falcon (Falco novaeseelandiae)! We were lucky to
see this!

Also see related posts:
> Sound of Silence – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand Trip #10
Mega Fox – Wanaka, New Zealand Trip #9
Ice Age – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand Trip #8
The Kueh Lapis – Punakaiki, New Zealand Trip #7
Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6
> Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

Sound of Silence – Fiordland National Park, New Zealand #10

May 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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The roller coaster experience I had in Kaikoura for whalewatching made me a bit worry about Itchyfingers‘ next cruise in New Zealand. But we had prebooked it online so like it or not, I would still have to give it a go…hahah…


We would be taking one of these for our cruise to Milford Sound


The Milford Visitors Centre and Terminal…

As it was a noontime cruise, we could choose to pay extra for sandwich lunch and hot beverages to be served on board at the start of the ride. Itchyfingers didn’t wanna pay for the costly meal (we had our own sandwiches at the visitors’ carpark!) so we joined some other tourists (looked like poor backpackers like us…hahah) to sit at the outer deck of the boat….looked a bit miserable…hahahah….

Milford Sound is one of the most accessible fiords in the south west of NZ’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available.

So, what’s a fiord?

Fiord, or Fjord, is “a long narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth’s crust as the ice load and eroded sediment is removed.”  Milford Sound is one of the 14 fiords in New Zealand. They were mistakenly named sound by James Cook, the British explorer. A sound is a drowned valley (flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both), whereas a fiord is a valley carved out by glaciers (flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat.)


There were many small waterfalls snaking their way down along the cliff


More…


So many of them…

It was a peaceful and quiet scenario, looking at the landscape enjoying the cool breeze. By now my worry about getting sea sick was gone, as the water seemed to be much calmer. It helped that we were sitting outside, getting fresh air. 🙂


A fellow cruise vessel…


Vegetation thrived despite the harsh condition…


Gulls were plentiful…so were the streaks of fecal waste on the cliff face…

 
Terns were also seen…Not too sure the identity of this tern….could be the
White-fronted Tern…

Not too long later, the serenity was broken and replaced with exclaims of excitement from the tourists when the tour operator alerted all of the sighting of Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri)


Sound of clicking of cameras on three fat Fur Seals snoozing on the rock
broke the silence!


As the boat turned, more seals were seen at the same location! So cute! I
wished they could have stopped longer for us to observe the cute fellas


So lonely


Then another group of Fur Seals were spotted! This group was slightly
more active…It may not be as close as the ones we saw at Kaikoura but
the seals here were found to be gathering in much larger groups…


How did they manage to climb on the relatively steep, smooth and slippery
rocks? 

It was a fine day when we started our cruise. But it started to drizzle heavily…something that was expected – Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. So visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay. According to our cruise operator’s site, “the temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows: summer (December-February) 19-23 Celsius, autumn (March-May) 8-18 Celsius, winter (June-August) 5-9 Celsius, spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius.”


Misty…


At one point, the operator announced that we were going to go nearer to
this waterfall. Couldn’t really catch all he said cos the broadcast system
wasn’t very clear
…But this should be one of the bigger ones that we could go
near…This 
was taken from our boat. Even at this distance, we could feel
the powerful splatters of water


Many tourists weren’t bothered that their small cameras would get wet and
went to the upper deck to experience the full power of the waterfall! So fun!
Too bad I was still sick and my thin windbreaker would not protect against
heavy rain….


This was as far as Tisu Boy could go! Head on with the powerful splash!


I think that was how close our vessel went towards the waterfall…

As the rain got heavier, many retreated inside to take cover. At a point it got so wet and cold that Itchyfingers also tried to take shelter inside, only to find there were no more seats available. Most of the tourists look like foreigners, with the majority being older folks with their families or groups of friends. There was only one other asian family. We were drenched and feeling so cold, trying to look around for a seat to rest but no one offered to invite us to join their tables although some of the seats were not fully occupied but were used to put their belongings. Not very gracious and considerate. We couldn’t even find a proper place to stand…Looking at them happily laughing and sipping hot coffee and tea while ignoring others who were standing around shivering suddenly made me feel like an inferior being…felt so discriminated…Maybe we should have tried asking nicely…We weren’t even sure if we could help ourselves to the drinks to warm ourselves since we didn’t pay for the food. So we stood near the door with a few other caucasian tourists (who were also late to take shelter) for a while before going out again to take photos…


Tisu Girl happy again…hahah…

On the way back, we saw these…


Sharks?


No, these were the
Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)! There
were a few of them but they didn’t do as much acrobatic leaps as the
Dusky Dolphins Itchyfingers saw at Kaikoura whalewatching, so it was
tougher to predict when they were gonna emerge outta the water. It was
still raining and the boat was moving, so this was the best picture we
could manage…And suddenly the coffee or tea sippers inside all ran out
to take photos also…


The Red-billed Gull and possibly the
White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata),
the most common tern in New Zealand…It was still drizzling…


Last look at another waterfall before we ended our cruise…

We left the Visitors’ Centre/Terminal and as we drove along the road up, we were delighted to find multiple streams of waterfall from the top of the cliff…it was such a majestic sight….


The steep road up…The waterfalls were absent when we drove down to the
Visitors Centre but after the
 whole afternoon’s rain, waterfalls streamed
down like opened taps…


We were treated to a panoramic view of waterfalls on the rocky cliffs…
Here we were approaching the Homer Tunnel…Some site said that you
could see the mountain parrot, Kea, here but we didn’t see any…


The Homer Tunnel is 1,270 metres long and used to be pitch dark inside until
a tour bus carrying tourists from Singapore caught fire about 150 metres
from the eastern portal in 2002. A satellite phone and fire extinguishers
were installed in the tunnel as a result of this incident. Roof lighting was
fitted and traffic lights reintroduced in 2004 to reduce capacity constraints
and safety issues. Here we had to wait for cars from the opposite end to
pass before we could enter, giving us the chance to take in the amazing
sight…


Even if there were lights now, you still have to turn on the headlight when
you enter the tunnel


No words could describe the majestic view in front of us…Itchyfingers
were speechless


The valley in the fog…This looked so Lord of the Ring! 😀


A coach from the same tour operator as our cruise…Notice anything
unique about the coach? It was titled upwards so that people at the back
could have an unobstructed view along the way…interesting

Many of the pictures on travel brochures we saw on Milford Sound were mostly colourful, bright and cheery taken on sunny days, but on a rainy day, it presented a different look that was so peaceful and serene too. Moments of silence were always broken with lives of animals and the waterfalls…and not forgetting the sounds of camera shutters of excited tourists…Come experience a different Milford Sound, be it a sunny or rainy day, the fiord will definitely leave you speechless….

Also see related posts:
>
Mega Fox – Wanaka, New Zealand Trip #9
Ice Age – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand Trip #8
The Kueh Lapis – Punakaiki, New Zealand Trip #7
Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6
> Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

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